The World According to Rico – Speak softly and carry a big stick

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, once famously said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick, and you will go far.”

Apparently my mom’s mother loved to use this quote as she mastered a combination of quiet talking and spanking to achieve parenting.

I never met the woman or President Roosevelt, but I can testify to the power of speaking softly and carrying a big stick.

It happened the other afternoon. It was a hot, windy one and even though I wasn’t excited to go out in 90-degree weather (again, my fur coat makes me prefer 70 degrees and below), it was that necessary time of day.

My mom and I ventured out on my leash, into the big lot which the neighborhood agrees I control. As we went to my favorite squat spot, I noticed a big stick and couldn’t resist grabbing it up. Who doesn’t love a random big stick? I knew it would provide me hours of enjoyment.

So I held onto it as I searched for a special spot to do my business.

That’s when a movement, a strange movement, caught the corner of my eye. Something was wrong, there were red things moving over by the tree. Mom didn’t see them, she was looking elsewhere. I stopped in my tracks and took a better look. That’s when I realized the drama at hand.

Oh dear God in heaven, the dang chickens were out! They were running loose!

I didn’t want to let go of my stick but I had to warn the mama. I tried to let out a little puppy bark with that stick in my mouth, but it just didn’t sound the same. It was more like a whine and really didn’t get any attention.

I had no choice but to release the stick and bark – to my astonishment, a real adult bark came out of my mouth because I was so frantic to alert my mother to the emergency at hand.

The sound that came out was low and adult. At first, I didn’t even know it was me. But when I saw there were no big dogs around, I realized the sound was coming out of my little body.

That got Mom’s attention but it all went to me because of the grown-up sound I had just made.

“Oh, a big boy bark!” she exclaimed, rubbing me down while I grabbed my big stick.

I had no choice but to run straight for the chicken area, because she was too focused on my sudden voice change.

She followed along, hanging onto the leash with all her might because of my sudden burst of speed.

That’s when she saw the dilemma we had at hand.

There were some panicked swear words and something about, “How the hell am I going to catch five chickens by myself?”

Well, that kind of hurt my feelings because I’m not completely helpless! I was there to help, too!

She hooked me to the deck and wrung her hands in dismay. Again, more swearing and mumbling about what she was about to do.

I just stood there and held onto my stick because it made me feel calmer. At least calmer than she was.

Then I had an idea. While she paced around, trying to figure out how to get each individual chicken into the run, by herself, without letting the others back out while retrieving another – I had a revelation.

And even though that big stick was still in my mouth, I stood at attention with my ears straight in the air and barked the word, “WORMS!”

It was a muffled dog version of the word and didn’t much resemble English. But I was determined to share my idea with her.

“WORMS!” I barked, telling her to grab their beloved sack of dried mealworms and use them to lure those naughty chickens back into their pen.

But she paid no attention to me, didn’t understand me, as she found the space where the gate had blown in the big wind – the place where they had wiggled their way loose. More swearing, opening the gate wide, more swearing, some chasing of chickens.

It was an embarrassing display of back and forth, I have to say.

She was a hot mess having no positive results.

“WORMS!” I softly barked, waving around my big stick because I thought it might scare the chickens into submission but to no avail.

So I took the bull by the horns, dropped my stick and loudly screeched, “WORMS!!!!!!”

The stick went back into my mouth and I stood guard. Suddenly, I could see the lightbulb go off in her mind and she suddenly yelled, “Worms!”

Thank the Lord! The message got through. Somehow she’s learned to speak Keeshond and I’m navigating through Human/English. All without Rosetta Stone.

Even the chickens understood her exclamation. They don’t know anything cerebral, but wow, they know worms.

So, there I stood, with my big stick, guarding one side of the yard, shaking like a leaf because I was nervous and scared, yet excited to be a big guard dog for the very first time.

That mother of ours dove into the big silver bin with a vengeance, grabbing a big Tupperware container of dried-up, disgusting worms.

She stared down each and every single flighty hen and softly told them, “If you want worms, you have to come with me.”

I just stood there with my big stick, softly barking inside my little throat.

I held my breath and pretended to jump at the big red chickens every so often, to show my faked authority.

One by one, she approached with the container of Chicken Cocaine, luring them with their greatest vice.

She got Big Red to go in first – into the run and then into the actual coop where more worms had been placed. When in the coop, she shut the door and went for another one.

Crazy came next. Mom got two with one swoop because all the chickens try to take away Crazy’s food – so that was a no-brainer to go with the Araucanas next. Now three were in the coop.

The middle-sized reds were a little trickier. They decided to challenge her authority and danced around a little more. It was like Hip Hop met The Lord of the Dance. Mom just brought more worms to the table and I waved my big stick around a bit more aggressively.

Seconds ticked by, minutes were spent . . . she spoke softly and I carried my big stick. I didn’t bark and she didn’t swear. The stand-off was on and our concerted effort was going strong.

Eventually, the two last reds followed the trail of worms to the gate and I swear Mom moved so fast to trap them in for good I barely even saw it happen. To stay she’s stealthy is an understatement.

As the final run gate closed, she and I cheered for the other because we had achieved the unthinkable goal of luring five crazy chickens with worms.

She hugged and thanked me for being such a big boy. I loved the compliment but I think the only thing big was my stick. But then again, I was the one who thought of the worms and softly barked the idea into her ears.

As she opened the coop and made sure the gate to the run was secure, I decided I needed to relax because my blood pressure was beyond what I thought was safe. I laid next to my big stick and thanked the Lord I had my weapon in such a battle of war. I think I even dozed off a little as I often do shortly after I lose my mind.

That night, I got some extra treats, more scratching of my arm pits than normal and an extra hour in the big people bed. I think it was because of my prowess and skills at chicken wrangling.

But mostly it was because I remembered the wise words of my mom’s mom and President Roosevelt: “Speak softly and carry a big stick, and you will go far.”





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